Derby Top 10 Picks: Tiz the Law No. 1; Baffert has 3 Horses on List
By Richard Rosenblatt
Three more preps, four more weeks, a likely field of 20 horses coming into focus, and then they’ll be off in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Despite a four-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and a reshuffled racing schedule that makes the Derby the second leg of the Triple Crown instead of the first, excitement is beginning to build for the Run for the Roses.
Churchill Downs is gearing up for the Derby on Sept. 5, with a plan to have a limited amount of spectators based on whatever safety protocols are in place as Derby Day gets closer.
Our usracing.com Derby Top 10 list this week has undergone several changes, but not at No. 1, where Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tiz the Law rules as he gets ready for the $1 million Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 8 (Saturday).
Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law continues to train forwardly for the 1 ¼-mile Travers – the traditional centerpiece of the Saratoga season relegated to a Derby prep offering qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the first four finishers.
Trained by Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law worked Saturday over the Spa’s main track, covering 5 furlongs in 59.44 seconds.
“I wanted to go in a minute and he went in a minute. It was perfect,” Tagg told the NYRA press office after the workout. “We couldn’t have worked better. He came back good and he was breathing good. Everything was good. He’s a gem to work with. He is doing perfectly as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know what else we can do for him. I like this colt. Why wouldn’t you? We’ve got a nice horse.”
Five-time Derby winner Bob Baffert has a few nice horses, too.
Haskell (G1) winner Authentic is now No. 2 for the five-time Derby winning trainer; Thousand Words upset Honor A.P., the 1-5 favorite who stumbled at the start, in Saturday’s Shared Belief to move in at No. 3; and 2-for-2 Uncle Chuck (No. 9) is heading East to take on Tiz the Law in the Travers.
Baffert said Thousand Words has been a different horse since his runner-up finish to stablemate Uncle Chuck in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3).
“The real Thousand Words showed up today. His whole mind changed. His color has changed,’’ Baffert told the Del Mar press office after the Shared Belief. “He had soured out on me, but we got him going the right way. I think he earned his way to the Derby.”
As for Uncle Chuck, Baffert is optimistic after the colt worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 at Del Mar on Saturday, the fastest of 71 clocked at the distance.
“He worked really nice and I was really happy with the way he did it,” Baffert said. “He came out of his last race really well. We still have to ship and hopefully he doesn’t get too stirred up. Hopefully, we get a good post and a good break.”
The probable field for the Travers is Tiz the Law, Uncle Chuck, Shivaree, Country Grammer, Mystic Guide, Caracaro, First Line, Max Player, and South Bend.
After the Travers, the remaining two Derby preps are the Ellis Park Derby (G3) on Aug. 9; and the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 15.
The Top 10:
- Tiz the Law (Barclay Tagg, Manny Franco)
Put in superb final work before Travers – 5 furlongs in 59.44 over main track at the Spa … Belmont Stakes winner likely to be strong favorite for Travers … 3-for-3 in 2002 – Holy Bull, Florida Derby, Belmont (firsts leg of Triple Crown) … No. 1 on Derby points leaderboard (272) … Next start: Travers, Saratoga, Saturday … Derby Future Wager Odds: 5-2.
- Authentic (Bob Baffert, Drayden Van Dyke)
Haskell winner (Mike Smith riding), worked leisurely 4 furlongs in 50.20 seconds at Del Mar on Aug. 1 … Only loss in five career starts was a second to Honor A.P. in Santa Anita Derby … No. 2 on points leaderboard (200) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Sept. 5 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 9-1.
- Thousand Words (Bob Baffert, Abel Cedillo)
If this guy can behave in the gate, he may be better than advertised … Still, despite rearing up before the start, the colt broke well and wired the field in the Shared Belief … Derby bound after ending 0-for-3 skid following 3-0 career start … No. 7 on Derby points leaderboard (83) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Sept. 5 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 65-1.
- Honor A.P. (John Shirreffs, Mike Smith)
Tough race in Shared Belief as heavy favorite broke late but still finished second, three-quarters of a length behind Thousand Words … Also tough to rate him up here with a 1-for-3 record in 2020 – the win being the Santa Anita Derby, though … No. 3 on Derby points leaderboard (140) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Sept. 5 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 6-1.
- Art Collector (Tom Drury, Brian Hernandez, Jr.)
Already in the Derby field after big win in the Blue Grass on July 11, colt will have one more prep … 3-for-3 in 2020, with overall record of 4-1-0 from eight career starts … No. 5 on Derby points leaderboard (100) … Next start: Ellis Park Derby, Sunday … Derby Future Wager Odds: 8-1.
- Ny Traffic (Saffie Joseph, Jr., Paco Lopez)
Runner-up finishes in three Derby-point qualifiers – second in the Haskell by a nose in his last race — puts him in the Run for the Roses … Career record of 2-3-2 from nine starts and earnings of over $550,000 … No. 4 on Derby points leaderboard (110) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Sept. 5 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 19-1.
- Dr Post (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, Jr.)
A Derby without a Pletcher entry would be a surprise, so this son of Quality Road looks like he may show up … Third in the Haskell, a nose behind runner-up Ny Traffic, who was a nose behind winner Authentic … Ran second in the Belmont Stakes to dominating Tiz the Law … No. 8 on points leaderboard (80) … Next start: TBD … Derby Future Wager Odds: 24-1.
- King Guillermo (Juan Carlos Avila, Samy Camacho)
Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.11 at Gulfstream Park on July 25, second fastest of 38 at the same distance … Runner-up to Nadal in a division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2 … Would be a four-month layoff heading to Derby if no other starts occur … No. 6 on points leaderboard (90) … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Sept. 5 … Derby Future Wager Odds: 25-1.
- Uncle Chuck (Bob Baffert, Luis Saez)
Son of Uncle Mo heading East for to take on Tiz the Law in Travers … Late developer is 2-for-2 in 2020, including Los Alamitos Derby win over Thousand Words) … Did not race as a 2-year-old … No. 23 on Derby points leaderboard (20) … Next start: Travers, Saratoga, Saturday … Derby Future Wager Odds: 6-1.
- Country Grammer (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz, Jr.)
Worked 4 furlongs in 47.66 seconds at Spa on Saturday (sixth of 50 at same distance) … Peter Pan win sets him up to take on Tiz the Law in the Travers … No. 11 on Derby points leaderboard (50) … Next start: Travers, Saratoga, Saturday … Derby Future Wager Odds: 14-1 (mutuel field).
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.